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Does ivy kill trees?

Val Bourne / 05 April 2019

A reader wants to know whether his cherry tree is at risk of damage from the ivy growing up it.

Ivy on a tree

Question: does ivy kill trees?

I have a variegated ivy climbing up my cherry tree. It looks lovely but I’m worried it’ll damage the tree, should I remove it?


Ivy isn’t parasitic or poisonous. However it’s still slightly unfair on the cherry tree because climbing ivy has two stages of growth. The clinging, juvenile stage is leafy up to a certain height, but the adult growth is arborescent (tree-like). This woody growth produces flowers and berries and you often see ivy growing at the top of mature trees. The extra weight in the crown can topple a tree in time.

Never tug ivy off in full growth, because the tiny adventitious roots will damage tree trucks. Cut into the stems at ground level, using sharp secateurs, and wait for the leaves and stems to brown and die. Then it will come away easily. You could still save your ivy and plant it somewhere else, by pulling small pieces of new growth away and potting them up.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.